Silent and Deadly (Kidney Disease)

Think you could be at risk of kidney disease? Don’t delay – get checked today.

Kidney disease is having an even greater impact on Indigenous communities than previously realised, particularly in the Northern Territory, where it is estimated that up to 50 per cent of Indigenous people over 35 years old have kidney disease.

New research from the Public Health Association has also revealed that Indigenous people are eight to 10 times more likely to suffer from end-stage kidney failure than other Australians.

“Greater prevalence of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in some Indigenous Australian communities is due to the traditional high risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking,” says Medical Director of Kidney Health Australia Dr Tim Mathew.

“This can be compounded due to increased levels of poor nutrition, high alcohol use, streptococcal throat and skin infection, and socioeconomic disadvantaged living conditions.”

CKD is often referred to as the “silent killer”, as 80 to 90 per cent of kidney function can be lost before the patient experiences any symptoms.

“The latest research has recognised kidney disease is a ‘disease multiplier’,” says Dr Mathew. “It causes death in many people with diabetes and hypertension and predicts the development of a cardiovascular event (heart attack).

“If detected early through the screening of high risk groups CKD can be treated, thereby reducing other complications.”

Are you at risk?

  • Are you aged 50 years or above?
  • Are you aged 35 years or above and of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin?
  • Are you a smoker?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you have diabetes?
  • Do you have high blood pressure?
  • Do you have an immediate relative (mum, dad, brother or sister) with kidney disease?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions you are at increased risk of CKD. Head to your local doctor or Aboriginal Medical Service for a kidney health check. This usually involves:

  • A blood pressure check;
  • A blood test for kidney function; and
  • A urine test for protein.

You can also keep your kidneys healthy by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight;
  • Staying fit;
  • Eating a healthy diet;
  • Drinking water instead of sugary drinks;
  • Being a non-smoker; and
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation

Kidney Facts
Did you know?

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) has no warning signs – a person can lose up to 90 per cent of their kidney function before they feel sick.

Up to two million Australians could have some form of kidney disease and not know it.

CKD significantly increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is a serious condition of total or near total and permanent loss of kidney function, which without treatment, is terminal.

The rate of treated ESRD is eight to 10 times higher among Indigenous Australians than non-Indigenous Australians.

The overall death rates from CKD are up to ten times higher in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities compared to the rest of the Australian community.

In some remote communities kidney failure is 30-50 times the national average.

50 per cent of sufferers live in regions with no treatment facilities – many Indigenous people have to leave their family and communities and travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kilometres to access dialysis machines to stay alive.

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